2019 Napa Cab Quality?

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K. R. Baker
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2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#1 Post by K. R. Baker »

Where does 2019 fit in the past decade in terms of quality and vintage characteristics?

Any specific regions or vineyards standout?
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#2 Post by Len Stevens »

I too had the same questions.

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#3 Post by John Oglesby »

2019 was a perfect harvest. One of the best I've had in my 17 year career.

Reminds me a bit of 2009 in some ways.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#4 Post by Chris H. »

Same here! I loaded up on 2018s, but I don’t think this will be an early drinking vintage, for the most part. Hopefully 2019 is a good quality vintage that will drink welll earlier. Curious to know all of your thoughts and early peaks into the vintage.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#5 Post by Chris H. »

John Oglesby wrote: December 26th, 2020, 7:13 am 2019 was a perfect harvest. One of the best I've had in my 17 year career.

Reminds me a bit of 2009 in some ways.
Thanks for the heads up!
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#6 Post by Hank Victor »

Good quality and relatively high yields.

Unsure how the 2020 fires will effect pricing.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#7 Post by Eric White »

John Oglesby wrote: December 26th, 2020, 7:13 am 2019 was a perfect harvest. One of the best I've had in my 17 year career.

Reminds me a bit of 2009 in some ways.
Coming from someone else I might chalk this comment up to hype, but John isn't prone to that sort of thing :)

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#8 Post by BenjaminL »

2018 was the harvest Napa needed: no drama, perfect season. 2019 had 3” of rain in May. This is totally unheard of in Napa (folks in France will mock me for this complaint). Lots of vine hand work was needed to combat the extra growth and reduce powdery mildew pressure. Growers with an eye for quality quickly abandoned any cultivation and resuckered/leafed/sprayed. We made some good wines but with extra effort.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#9 Post by Len Stevens »

I spoke with Roy Piper yesterday on the phone. He said he will be adding his general impressions on '19 on here. There is no body better IMO!

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#10 Post by Chris H. »

Len Stevens wrote: December 27th, 2020, 5:29 am I spoke with Roy Piper yesterday on the phone. He said he will be adding his general impressions on '19 on here. There is no body better IMO!
Love his detailed notes!
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#11 Post by Roy Piper »

Now that most 2018s are sold, us winery owners/winemakers have shifted our focus to the 2019 vintage in barrel. Almost all of us have racked the 2019 wines at least once, they have 13 months in oak and we are getting an idea which lots are doing better and what our blends and wines will look like. I do feel confident we can make a general verdict on it, already.

It's an "excellent" vintage but probably not a "great, great" vintage like 2018. The 2018 vintage is up there with 2013, 2002, 1994, 1991; most likely approachable now (if you can tolerate tannin) but also will age for decades. The 18s had everything.

The 2019 vintage is, quality-wise, up there with 2010, 2014, 2006, 1996, 1992. No one will be complaining about 2019 in my opinion and almost everyone I know if awfully happy with em. They have potential to get even better, too. I feel the southern half of the valley did a bit better than the northern and the floor better than the mountains 2/3 of the time.

And given the worries about 2020 and potential smoke taint, I actually expect a pretty strong demand for the 19s, as many collectors and fans will be tightening their selection in 2022 when the 2020s come out and will want to "load up" with enough 19s to get through the gap. Locally, the prices for bulk 2019 juice in barrel is up 100% since the fires, as wineries want more of the top excess juice to release, knowing revenues will drop in 2022.

2019 started with huge amounts of rain, over 26 inches between Jan and Feb, alone. A lot of vines used all that water to produce lots of foliage and thus it was important that vineyard owners went through and cut out excess growth and dropped excess clusters. Vines don't know we want to make great wine and thus respond to what nature gives them, so all that water made them want to produce a lot of everything. The soils stayed damp 12-inches down even by July, so many top vineyards basically could dry farm if they wanted, for the rest of the vintage.

The rest of the season was moderate, with very few heat events, and also very little rain at the end, so we could hang and hang. Brix at harvest were standard for what each winemaker usually prefers, acid was moderate and tannins just a touch bigger than usual. Production size was average for Napa.

If you like to buy your favorite producers in most vintages, this will be one you want. I find (as do many of my winemaker friends) that the 2019 Cabs have a somewhat "linear" mouthfeel and slight "leanness" that our 2014s had when young. In my own case, I found my 14s quite linear until the last 12 months, when they started blossoming beautifully. It also reminds me of the under-rated 2006 vintage for Napa, which was much the same; required a bit of age, 5 years or so, and then open up into really beautiful wines that have stuffing to age. I think 06 has turned out to be a better vintage than 07, in retrospect. And 2014 better than 2015.

Putting on my collectors hat, the back-to-back 2018/2019 combo reminds me of how 1992 followed 1991 and 1995 followed 1994 and 2014 followed 2013.... excellent but just a tick behind the vintage that preceded it. It may not bring out the Cab buyers who only collect the top 2 or 3 vintages of a decade but will be made up for by those who "load up" for the potential drought of options coming in 2022.

Hope this helps!
Last edited by Roy Piper on December 27th, 2020, 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#12 Post by Len Stevens »

And that is why Roy is the best!

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#13 Post by Russell R Bevan »

2019 is a vintage that will be defined by the vineyard site and farming quality.

Canopy management was a huge challenge. We had crews prune and sucker time and again. Huge winter rains and a large spring rain pushed the vigor level and we had to keep it under control. Getting the vine to go from vegetive development to reproductive develop and repartitioning carbohydrates took a lot of time and detailed farming.

If you didn't manage your crop load things went sideways as well. In healthy soils you had to leave a lot of fruit hanging, to suck vigor from the vine and then do a big drop to get the vines to focus on flavor and phenolic development. Well drained sites mitigated much of this, but even hillsides wanted to develop their root systems and structures instead of developing flavors.

Extraction techniques in the winery had to be pushed early for my style and then backed way off at the end. As a winemaker and grower it as my version of a great game of chess. Some of the 19's will be mind bending, many will be good. When I purchase 2019's I'll ask myself who are the winemakers and growers who live in their vineyards and can throw out their standard recipe.

All the best,
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#14 Post by roybehr »

Roy Piper wrote: December 27th, 2020, 12:05 pm Now that most 2018s are sold, us winery owners/winemakers have shifted our focus to the 2019 vintage in barrel. Almost all of us have racked the 2019 wines at least once, they have 13 months in oak and we are getting an idea which lots are doing better and what our blends and wines will look like. I do feel confident we can make a general verdict on it, already.

It's an "excellent" vintage but probably not a "great, great" vintage like 2018. The 2018 vintage is up there with 2013, 2002, 1994, 1991; most likely approachable now (if you can tolerate tannin) but also will age for decades. The 18s had everything.

The 2019 vintage is, quality-wise, up there with 2010, 2014, 2006, 1996, 1992. No one will be complaining about 2019 in my opinion and almost everyone I know if awfully happy with em. They have potential to get even better, too. I feel the southern half of the valley did a bit better than the northern and the floor better than the mountains 2/3 of the time.

And given the worries about 2020 and potential smoke taint, I actually expect a pretty strong demand for the 19s, as many collectors and fans will be tightening their selection in 2022 when the 2020s come out and will want to "load up" with enough 19s to get through the gap. Locally, the prices for bulk 2019 juice in barrel is up 100% since the fires, as wineries want more of the top excess juice to release, knowing revenues will drop in 2022.

2019 started with huge amounts of rain, over 26 inches between Jan and Feb, alone. A lot of vines used all that water to produce lots of foliage and thus it was important that vineyard owners went through and cut out excess growth and dropped excess clusters. Vines don't know we want to make great wine and thus respond to what nature gives them, so all that water made them want to produce a lot of everything. The soils stayed damp 12-inches down even by July, so many top vineyards basically could dry farm if they wanted, for the rest of the vintage.

The rest of the season was moderate, with very few heat events, and also very little rain at the end, so we could hang and hang. Brix at harvest were standard for what each winemaker usually prefers, acid was moderate and tannins just a touch bigger than usual. Production size was average for Napa.

If you like to buy your favorite producers in most vintages, this will be one you want. I find (as do many of my winemaker friends) that the 2019 Cabs have a somewhat "linear" mouthfeel and slight "leanness" that our 2014s had when young. In my own case, I found my 14s quite linear until the last 12 months, when they started blossoming beautifully. It also reminds me of the under-rated 2006 vintage for Napa, which was much the same; required a bit of age, 5 years or so, and then open up into really beautiful wines that have stuffing to age. I think 06 has turned out to be a better vintage than 07, in retrospect. And 2014 better than 2015.

Putting on my collectors hat, the back-to-back 2018/2019 combo reminds me of how 1992 followed 1991 and 1995 followed 1994 and 2014 followed 2013.... excellent but just a tick behind the vintage that preceded it. It may not bring out the Cab buyers who only collect the top 2 or 3 vintages of a decade but will be made up for by those who "load up" for the potential drought of options coming in 2022.

Hope this helps!
Thanks Roy, that's exactly what we needed! Since you listed other vintages in your description, I am curious where you put 2001 and 2016.

Thanks!!

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#15 Post by blarmston »

Thank you to Roy and Russell for your thoughts- you don’t need to spend your time, but it’s much appreciated...
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#16 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Russell R Bevan wrote: December 27th, 2020, 4:04 pm 2019 is a vintage that will be defined by the vineyard site and farming quality.

Canopy management was a huge challenge. We had crews prune and sucker time and again. Huge winter rains and a large spring rain pushed the vigor level and we had to keep it under control. Getting the vine to go from vegetive development to reproductive develop and repartitioning carbohydrates took a lot of time and detailed farming.

If you didn't manage your crop load things went sideways as well. In healthy soils you had to leave a lot of fruit hanging, to suck vigor from the vine and then do a big drop to get the vines to focus on flavor and phenolic development. Well drained sites mitigated much of this, but even hillsides wanted to develop their root systems and structures instead of developing flavors.

Extraction techniques in the winery had to be pushed early for my style and then backed way off at the end. As a winemaker and grower it as my version of a great game of chess. Some of the 19's will be mind bending, many will be good. When I purchase 2019's I'll ask myself who are the winemakers and growers who live in their vineyards and can throw out their standard recipe.

All the best,
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#17 Post by Albert R »

blarmston wrote: December 27th, 2020, 7:21 pm
@. Re-go

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#18 Post by Albert R »

Albert R wrote: December 28th, 2020, 6:11 am
blarmston wrote: December 27th, 2020, 7:21 pm
Roy and Russell we appreciate your thoughts. Thank you!
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#19 Post by Len Stevens »

I can't thank Roy and Russel enough. The sharing og their knowledge is one of the primary reasons I adore this site and check in daily!

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#20 Post by Roy Piper »

roybehr wrote: December 27th, 2020, 5:04 pm
Thanks Roy, that's exactly what we needed! Since you listed other vintages in your description, I am curious where you put 2001 and 2016.

Thanks!!
I put them on a similar relative plane. I think 2001 was a balanced, prototypical Napa vintage, with 02 being more lush and more tannic and more full-bodied. I think 16 is to 18 as 01 was to 02.

2016 is an excellent vintage and I would rank it just a little bit higher than 2019 but not at the level of 2018.

2001 was for me the last vintage Napa made that straddled the mid-to-late 1990s-style. By 2002 things started to get riper and by 2003 and through 2009 most of Napa went through its "over-ripe" phase.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#21 Post by Roberto I. »

Awesome intel. Thank you Roy and Russell! Sounds like I have to prep the bank account for 18 & 19...
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#22 Post by Merrill Lindquist »

All's good here at EMH for 2019. I just pulled a composite sample last week and it is classic Black Cat.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#23 Post by Gabe Berk »

What Roy said :)

Regardless of 2020 not producing much if any Napa Cab, I'm stocking up on available 2018 and 2019 Cabernet as they are both A++ and A+ vintages. So far of the 2018 Napa Valley Cabernets that have been released, my favorite QPR is the 2018 Bevan Ontogeny. $95 for that wine is incredible. A lot of the 2018 Napa Cabernets I've had are so tightly wound up, they need to be forgotten for at least a year to shed any light onto what they'll become. The 2018 Ontogeny is ready for business now and will only get better.

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#24 Post by FMansfield »

Roy Piper wrote: December 27th, 2020, 12:05 pm Now that most 2018s are sold, us winery owners/winemakers have shifted our focus to the 2019 vintage in barrel. Almost all of us have racked the 2019 wines at least once, they have 13 months in oak and we are getting an idea which lots are doing better and what our blends and wines will look like. I do feel confident we can make a general verdict on it, already.

It's an "excellent" vintage but probably not a "great, great" vintage like 2018. The 2018 vintage is up there with 2013, 2002, 1994, 1991; most likely approachable now (if you can tolerate tannin) but also will age for decades. The 18s had everything.

The 2019 vintage is, quality-wise, up there with 2010, 2014, 2006, 1996, 1992. No one will be complaining about 2019 in my opinion and almost everyone I know if awfully happy with em. They have potential to get even better, too. I feel the southern half of the valley did a bit better than the northern and the floor better than the mountains 2/3 of the time.

And given the worries about 2020 and potential smoke taint, I actually expect a pretty strong demand for the 19s, as many collectors and fans will be tightening their selection in 2022 when the 2020s come out and will want to "load up" with enough 19s to get through the gap. Locally, the prices for bulk 2019 juice in barrel is up 100% since the fires, as wineries want more of the top excess juice to release, knowing revenues will drop in 2022.

2019 started with huge amounts of rain, over 26 inches between Jan and Feb, alone. A lot of vines used all that water to produce lots of foliage and thus it was important that vineyard owners went through and cut out excess growth and dropped excess clusters. Vines don't know we want to make great wine and thus respond to what nature gives them, so all that water made them want to produce a lot of everything. The soils stayed damp 12-inches down even by July, so many top vineyards basically could dry farm if they wanted, for the rest of the vintage.

The rest of the season was moderate, with very few heat events, and also very little rain at the end, so we could hang and hang. Brix at harvest were standard for what each winemaker usually prefers, acid was moderate and tannins just a touch bigger than usual. Production size was average for Napa.

If you like to buy your favorite producers in most vintages, this will be one you want. I find (as do many of my winemaker friends) that the 2019 Cabs have a somewhat "linear" mouthfeel and slight "leanness" that our 2014s had when young. In my own case, I found my 14s quite linear until the last 12 months, when they started blossoming beautifully. It also reminds me of the under-rated 2006 vintage for Napa, which was much the same; required a bit of age, 5 years or so, and then open up into really beautiful wines that have stuffing to age. I think 06 has turned out to be a better vintage than 07, in retrospect. And 2014 better than 2015.

Putting on my collectors hat, the back-to-back 2018/2019 combo reminds me of how 1992 followed 1991 and 1995 followed 1994 and 2014 followed 2013.... excellent but just a tick behind the vintage that preceded it. It may not bring out the Cab buyers who only collect the top 2 or 3 vintages of a decade but will be made up for by those who "load up" for the potential drought of options coming in 2022.

Hope this helps!

Thanks Roy!
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#25 Post by DavidChang »

Here I am sitting here... still trying to get allocation from Roy. I've recieved and seen all his tasting videos but just no wine

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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#26 Post by NickRut »

Bumping this. Galloni seemed to infer that 19 was a bigger more concentrated vintage than 18. Wondering who else has insight?
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#27 Post by scott.becker »

I loved reading the observations from Roy and Russell. Might still be a little early for me to offer a definitive comparison between 2018 and 2019. In fairness, I've tasted some other (growing by the day) 2018's but not enough of Napa Valley to comment with conviction. And my thoughts on 2019 are restricted to our barrels only since I haven't really been tasting other producers' barrels in a year or so.

In the vineyard, I completely agree with the commentary about the 2019 growing season - lots of vigor to contend with. But strangely enough, at this particular moment in time, I might find myself on the other side of the debate with Roy about 2019 vs 2018. (Roy, I propose we resolve this over another infamous long lunch! [cheers.gif]) Our 2019's in barrel seem to have a little more fleshiness...we like to call it baby fat...than the 2018's did. A little more concentration, a touch less acidity. I might give a slight nod to our 2019's over 2018 at the moment. Either way, I think we are blessed to have two great vintages in 2018 and 2019. And I feel especially blessed with these two vintages given the devastation of the 2020 vintage.

The decade of 2010 through 2019 might arguably be the greatest decade yet for wine quality in Napa Valley. Time will tell where each vintage ranks. The challenging vintages would be 2011 and 2017 although I think in both cases (and for different reasons) the wines have turned out very well. It's been an extraordinary string of 10 vintages which I think will age well compared to the decades of 1980's, 90's, 2000's.
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Re: 2019 Napa Cab Quality?

#28 Post by Betty C »

DavidChang wrote: January 5th, 2021, 7:47 am Here I am sitting here... still trying to get allocation from Roy. I've recieved and seen all his tasting videos but just no wine
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